Feel Free to Call It “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Buick.”

Bad Buick

Masa (he wouldn’t give his last name), the 48-year-old, Portugese-Japanese owner of this 1972 boattail Buick Riviera, above, posted this YouTube walkaround of it in a mall parking lot.

As you’ve, no doubt, already noted, the machine looks like it’s ready to wage war. The exterior bodywork has been completely blacked out. What little chrome remains has been re-plated, then shone to a mirror polish so high that, when you stare into it, you can practically see into the past. Inside, zebra-patterned seat covers throughout stoke the vehicle’s wild energy.

An optician/translator by trade, Masa says he was attracted to the car’s “form” and “useless size.” He bought it in California three years ago, spending over $28,000 both for the auto and getting it to Japan. Then, he took a year, and another $14,000, to restore it.


What wanton lust this inspires. For hours after I first caught the footage, I couldn’t turn off the soundtrack in my brain of William DeVaughn singing “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”: (“Diamond in the back / Sunroof top / Diggin’ the scene / With a gangsta lean / Woo-hoo-ooo….”)

Perhaps the coolest part of the YouTube arrives about halfway through, when the car starts rolling slowly around the lot, completely surrounded by nothing but polite econoboxes. Its dominance is so aggressive it’s almost rude. (For additional kitschy coolness, though, click this other link, where Masa and his generously-endowed wife, Izumi, roam highways and back roads like renegades, playing Arrested Development and Black Sheep, stopping only to admire the car and for noodles.)


It’s great to see the Riviera, above, get its much-deserved due. Back in my pre-driver’s ed days, I always admired the boattail, even when everybody else, including me, was mostly dreaming about the fastback Corvette, which inspired it. Created by Jerry Hirshberg, under the guidance of legendary GM stylist Bill Mitchell, the boattail Riviera mostly seemed a little playful. It looked like something someone had done after everybody else in the design studio had gone home, while the remaining stylist sat alone with a huge block of clay.

This so-called “third generation” Riviera was the least popular iteration of the car, in its era. Yet, as these things go, it’s almost certainly the one with the most passionate defenders and collectors, today.

Including at least one on the other side of the world. I asked Masa how other drivers react when he rolls his low, rumbling, gas-guzzling, 37-year-old ride past new, efficient, identity-less Japanese ones. “It is a face of surprise,” he explains. No translation necessary.



#1 p rex on 03.13.09 at 1:23 pm

I want to drive that across the country. slowly.

#2 A. on 03.20.09 at 12:10 pm

Boattail Riv. Ours was chopped 5 inches. I miss it, even though it was rusty and got something like 8 mpg (especially with the 455: you HAD to goose it everywhere). All torque, it had no idea what a hill was. 8.5 feet wide. Money.

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